He was trapped in a flying tube of potential death, sandwiched in between a businessman and a doe eyed college girl. Business man was snoring, face awkwardly pressed against the window, and Doe Eyes (who he deemed too pretty to talk to) was halfway through the latest issue of Vogue. He had stowed his moleskin in his seat back pocket, but his favorite (and only) pen was still in his carry-on bag in the overhead compartment. He wasn’t quite sure if he had left it there on purpose.
I don’t want to crawl over her, he reasoned with himself. Don’t want to be a bother.
If you spent as much time writing as you do thinking about writing, you’d probably have a novel by now, whispered his Inner Critic.
Hey! Cheap shot, he thought.
And you’re just a lazy jackass who can’t even manage to get your pen out of your bag when you have a three hour flight in which you could write.
This was the thing about his Inner Critic. Passive aggressive that escalated to personal attacks on his ability to even want to write. He never tried to indulge the Inner Critic, or invited him to stay in his mental life. It was more that he had attempted to be polite once, long ago, when he was taking his first writing course in college. He had though to himself that it would be kind of fun to write a space opera novella.
Been done before, he immediately heard, not two seconds after he had literally had the idea.
He felt sheepish. Of course. He was new to this writing thing. He didn’t really know what he should write about. Maybe if -
Doesn’t matter. You don’t know anything about space so what makes you think you can write about it?
He tried to reason. Yeah, but if you follow that logic, not everybody -
Just who do you think you are?
And on it went. Sometimes he was able to ignore the voice of the Inner Critic inside of his head, sometimes he couldn’t. He mostly enjoyed the writing class; except for every the time he thought of an idea that the ruthless Inner Critic would belittle him for. He usually finished his class assignments in a fit of desperation, because even though he didn’t know if they were any good, he had to turn something in.
After graduation, he couldn’t lie to himself and pretend he wasn’t interested in writing because he knew he clearly was. He managed to eke out magazine articles while working full time as a software coder. Inner Critic didn’t seem to mind when he wrote nonfiction. But Inner Critic basked in the attention he found himself giving it when he turned toward any fiction project. It would slap down suggestions for a short story set in Maine during the 1950s, or a novel loosely based on his personal experiences as a tennis instructor at summer camp.
Who wants a version of Dirty Dancing but without the dancing? And from the male perspective? Lame!
(It was weird that the Inner Critic immediately thought of the one movie he could remember about summer camp. Its not like he really even liked that movie).
Sometimes Inner Critic would take days or weeks off, not bothering to tease him about his emotional morning pages or make fun of snatches of poetry. But the closer he got to working up the courage to actually start his novel, it would start up again. Insulting his ideas or his lack of commitment to the writing craft. Reveling his regret.
And now it had come to this. Sitting on a cross country flight to a wedding of an old friend where he couldn’t….wouldn’t get the damn pen out of the overhead compartment.
If you haven’t written your novel by now, you’ll never write it, his Inner Critic sneered.
He jumped as if jabbed by a hot poker. Snoozing business man snorted/snored awake. Doe Eyes peered up at him. When they saw they weren’t in mortal danger, they turned away from him.
To hide his embarrasement, he looked down at the Vogue. He was able to see the title “The Lies We Tell Ourselves” but couldn’t make out what the article was about. What was it about? he wondered. Body image for women? Sticky subject. Probably wouldn’t be in the pages of a Vogue. Work/life balance? Did the publishers of Vogue really care about that? The fallacy of the American dream? Were the women who read Vogue were interested in that?
It wasn’t like the truth of how to ignore the Inner Critic hit him squarely in the eyes. It was more like as he tried to distract himself from his Inner Critic, he realized that there was more than enough things to write a novel about. He simply had to choose to do it.
I have to just write what I like and just write, he thought. Its all I have.
Taking a deep breath, he forced himself to look at Doe Eyes, who felt him looking at her, and looked back up quizzically.
“You have a pen?” he managed to croak at her.
Doe Eyes blinked. “In my purse.”
He smiled gratefully.
“It’s in the overhead compartment.”